Circular economy and corporate social responsibility in the agricultural system: Cases study of the Italian agri-food industry

https://doi.org/10.17221/343/2020-AGRICECONCitation:

Fortunati S., Morea D., Mosconi E.M. (2020): Circular economy and corporate social responsibility in the agricultural system: Cases study of the Italian agri-food industry. Agric. Econ. – Czech, 66: 489–498. 

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The persistent exploitation of natural resources and the consequent use of consumption are driving global food demand with the result that agricultural activity is becoming less and less environmentally friendly. The circular economy (CE) can become a valid alternative, inserting the economic-agricultural system into the harmonic process of material circulation. The corporate social responsibility (CSR) model is particularly interesting not only because of the ethical dimension of the company but also as a factor of strategic business improvement that combines the concepts of CSR and CE as possible solutions for developing sustainable business processes. The objective of the work is to highlight a detailed framework of how the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the Italian agri-food industry can provide an adequate level of communication, circular strategies and social responsibility practices. The research methodology is based on a qualitative multiple study conducted on a sample of nine companies in the Italian territory. The study highlights the attention of companies on the issues of the CE for the achievement of the set sustainable objectives and the attention to CSR and CE practices. The work has several implications. It provides a further understanding of CSR and CE policies as enabling factors for the development of sustainable organizational performance in agriculture. Moreover, it better investigates the relationship between CSR and the CE. Finally, it analyses the SMEs state of the art in the CE field and strengthens the concept of CE by analysing corporate practices consistent with sustainability reports.

References:
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Barrena-Martínez J., López-Fernández M., Márquez-Moreno C., Romero-Fernández P.M. (2015): Corporate social responsibility in the process of attracting college graduates. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 22: 408–423. https://doi.org/10.1002/csr.1355
 
Birim B. (2016): Evaluation of corporate social responsibility and social media as key source of strategic communication. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 235: 70–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.11.026
 
Brock C., Geier U., Greiner R., Olbrich-Majer M., Fritz J. (2019): Research in biodynamic food and farming – A review. Open Agriculture, 4: 743–757. https://doi.org/10.1515/opag-2019-0064
 
Cole S.A., Xiong W. (2017): Agricultural insurance and economic development. Annual Review of Economics, 9: 235–262.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080315-015225
 
Cutcliffe J.R. (2000): Methodological issues in grounded theory. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 31: 1476–1484. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2000.01430.x
 
D'Amato D., Droste N., Allen B., Kettunen M., Lähtinen K., Korhonen J., Toppinen A. (2017): Green, circular, bio economy: A comparative analysis of sustainability avenues. Journal of Cleaner Production, 168: 716–734.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.053
 
Deschenes O. (2015): Green jobs. In: Wright J.D. (ed.): International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 2nd Ed. Amsterdam, Netherlands, Elsevier; Burlington, Elsevier Science: 372–378.
 
Ellen-MacArthur Foundation (2013): Toward the circular economy – Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition. Ellen-MacArthur Foundation: 1–98. Available at https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/Ellen-MacArthur-Foundation-Towards-the-Circular-Economy-vol.1.pdf (accessed Oct 6, 2020).
 
Engelken M., Römer B., Drescher M., Welpe I.M., Picot A. (2016): Comparing drivers, barriers, and opportunities of business models for renewable energies: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 60: 795–809. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.12.163
 
Esken B., Franco-García M.L., Fisscher, O.A.M. (2018): CSR perception as a signpost for circular economy. Management Research Review, 41: 586–604. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-02-2018-0054
 
FAO (2016): The FAO Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2016-2020. FAO: 1–25. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5996e.pdf (accessed Oct 6, 2020).
 
Fortunati S., Martiniello L., Morea D. (2020): The strategic role of the corporate social responsibility and circular economy in the cosmetic industry. Sustainability, 12: 5120.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125120
 
Geissdoerfer M., Savaget P., Bocken N.M.P., Hultink E.J. (2017): The circular economy – A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production, 143: 757–768. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.12.048
 
Lai C.S., Chiu C.J., Yang C.F., Pai D.C. (2010): The effects of corporate social responsibility on brand performance: The mediating effect of industrial brand equity and corporate reputation. Journal of Business Ethics, 95: 457–469. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0433-1
 
Leandro A., Paixao S. (2018): Corporate social responsibility and circular economy: Two ways, same destinations? An outlook on both concepts and cases from Portugal. In: Proceedings Congrès avniR, Portugal, Nov 7, 2018: 24.
 
Lee S. (2020): Role of social and solidarity economy in localizing the sustainable development goals. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 1: 65–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2019.1670274
 
Mie A., Andersen H.R., Gunnarsson S., Kahl J., Kesse-Guyot E., Rembiałkowska E., Quaglio G., Grandjean P. (2017): Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: A comprehensive review. Environmental Health, 16: 111.  https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4
 
Morel K., Léger F., Ferguson R.S. (2018): Permaculture. In: Fath B.D. (ed.): Encyclopedia of Ecology. 2nd Ed. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 559–567.
 
Muller A., Schader C., El-Hage Scialabba N., Brüggemann J., Isensee A., Erb K.H., Smith P., Klocke P., Leiber F., Stolze M., Niggli U. (2017): Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nature Communications, 8: 1290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01410-w
 
Murray A., Skene K., Haynes K. (2017): The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. Journal of Business Ethics, 140: 369–380.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2693-2
 
Odum H.T., Odum E.C., Brown M.T. (2018): Agricultural systems. In: Odum H.T. (ed.): Environment and Society in Florida. New York, United States, Routledge: 1–10.
 
Passeri R., Mazzi C. (2013): Ethics in the company and business (Etica nell'impresa e negli affari). Milan, Italy, Franco Angeli: 1–184. (in Italian)
 
Pieroni M.P.P., McAloone T.C., Pigosso D.C.A. (2019): Business model innovation for circular economy and sustainability: A review of approaches. Journal of Cleaner Production, 215: 198–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.036
 
Rahdari A., Sepasi S., Moradi M. (2016): Achieving sustainability through Schumpeterian social entrepreneurship: The role of social enterprises. Journal of Cleaner Production, 137: 347–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.159
 
Rockström J., Williams J., Daily G., Noble A., Matthews N., Gordon L., Wetterstrand H., DeClerck F., Shah M., Steduto P., de Fraiture C., Hatibu N., Unver O., Bird J., Sibanda L., Smith J. (2017): Sustainable intensification of agriculture for human prosperity and global sustainability. Ambio, 46: 4–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0793-6
 
Skene K., Murray A. (2017): Sustainable Economics – Context, Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st-century Practitioner. London, Routledge: 1–480.
 
Slavova I., Ivanova V. (2019): Corporate environmental re-
 
sponsibility within the circular economy context: Opportunities for development and sustainability. Economic Alternatives, 2: 184–204.
 
Tirivayi N., Knowles M., Davis B. (2016): The interaction between social protection and agriculture: A review of evidence. Global Food Security, 10: 52–62.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.08.004
 
Toop T.A., Ward S., Oldfield T., Hull M., Kirby M.E., Theodorou M.K. (2017): AgroCycle – Developing a circular economy in agriculture. Energy Procedia, 123: 76–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2017.07.269
 
Tsiafouli M.A., Thébault E., Sgardelis S.P., de Ruiter P.C., van der Putten W.H., Birkhofer K., Hemerik L., de Vries F.T., Bardgett R.D., Brady M.V., Bjornlund L., Jørgensen H.B., Christensen S., D'Hertefeldt T., Hotes S., Gera Hol W.H., Frouz J., Liiri M., Mortimer S.R., Setälä H., Tzanopoulos J., Uteseny K., Pižl V., Stary J., Wolters V., Hedlund K. (2015): Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity across Europe. Global Change Biology, 21: 973–985. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12752
 
Zott C., Amit R. (2010): Business model design: An activity system perspective. Long Range Planning, 43: 216–226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2009.07.004
 
AIDA Bureau Van Dijk (2020): Italian Company Data. Available at https://www.bvdinfo.com/en-gb/our-products/data/national/aida (accessed Oct 6, 2020).
 
Barrena-Martínez J., López-Fernández M., Márquez-Moreno C., Romero-Fernández P.M. (2015): Corporate social responsibility in the process of attracting college graduates. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 22: 408–423. https://doi.org/10.1002/csr.1355
 
Birim B. (2016): Evaluation of corporate social responsibility and social media as key source of strategic communication. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 235: 70–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.11.026
 
Brock C., Geier U., Greiner R., Olbrich-Majer M., Fritz J. (2019): Research in biodynamic food and farming – A review. Open Agriculture, 4: 743–757. https://doi.org/10.1515/opag-2019-0064
 
Cole S.A., Xiong W. (2017): Agricultural insurance and economic development. Annual Review of Economics, 9: 235–262.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080315-015225
 
Cutcliffe J.R. (2000): Methodological issues in grounded theory. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 31: 1476–1484. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2000.01430.x
 
D'Amato D., Droste N., Allen B., Kettunen M., Lähtinen K., Korhonen J., Toppinen A. (2017): Green, circular, bio economy: A comparative analysis of sustainability avenues. Journal of Cleaner Production, 168: 716–734.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.053
 
Deschenes O. (2015): Green jobs. In: Wright J.D. (ed.): International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 2nd Ed. Amsterdam, Netherlands, Elsevier; Burlington, Elsevier Science: 372–378.
 
Ellen-MacArthur Foundation (2013): Toward the circular economy – Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition. Ellen-MacArthur Foundation: 1–98. Available at https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/Ellen-MacArthur-Foundation-Towards-the-Circular-Economy-vol.1.pdf (accessed Oct 6, 2020).
 
Engelken M., Römer B., Drescher M., Welpe I.M., Picot A. (2016): Comparing drivers, barriers, and opportunities of business models for renewable energies: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 60: 795–809. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2015.12.163
 
Esken B., Franco-García M.L., Fisscher, O.A.M. (2018): CSR perception as a signpost for circular economy. Management Research Review, 41: 586–604. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-02-2018-0054
 
FAO (2016): The FAO Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2016-2020. FAO: 1–25. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5996e.pdf (accessed Oct 6, 2020).
 
Fortunati S., Martiniello L., Morea D. (2020): The strategic role of the corporate social responsibility and circular economy in the cosmetic industry. Sustainability, 12: 5120.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125120
 
Geissdoerfer M., Savaget P., Bocken N.M.P., Hultink E.J. (2017): The circular economy – A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production, 143: 757–768. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.12.048
 
Lai C.S., Chiu C.J., Yang C.F., Pai D.C. (2010): The effects of corporate social responsibility on brand performance: The mediating effect of industrial brand equity and corporate reputation. Journal of Business Ethics, 95: 457–469. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-010-0433-1
 
Leandro A., Paixao S. (2018): Corporate social responsibility and circular economy: Two ways, same destinations? An outlook on both concepts and cases from Portugal. In: Proceedings Congrès avniR, Portugal, Nov 7, 2018: 24.
 
Lee S. (2020): Role of social and solidarity economy in localizing the sustainable development goals. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 1: 65–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2019.1670274
 
Mie A., Andersen H.R., Gunnarsson S., Kahl J., Kesse-Guyot E., Rembiałkowska E., Quaglio G., Grandjean P. (2017): Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: A comprehensive review. Environmental Health, 16: 111.  https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4
 
Morel K., Léger F., Ferguson R.S. (2018): Permaculture. In: Fath B.D. (ed.): Encyclopedia of Ecology. 2nd Ed. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 559–567.
 
Muller A., Schader C., El-Hage Scialabba N., Brüggemann J., Isensee A., Erb K.H., Smith P., Klocke P., Leiber F., Stolze M., Niggli U. (2017): Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nature Communications, 8: 1290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01410-w
 
Murray A., Skene K., Haynes K. (2017): The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. Journal of Business Ethics, 140: 369–380.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2693-2
 
Odum H.T., Odum E.C., Brown M.T. (2018): Agricultural systems. In: Odum H.T. (ed.): Environment and Society in Florida. New York, United States, Routledge: 1–10.
 
Passeri R., Mazzi C. (2013): Ethics in the company and business (Etica nell'impresa e negli affari). Milan, Italy, Franco Angeli: 1–184. (in Italian)
 
Pieroni M.P.P., McAloone T.C., Pigosso D.C.A. (2019): Business model innovation for circular economy and sustainability: A review of approaches. Journal of Cleaner Production, 215: 198–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.036
 
Rahdari A., Sepasi S., Moradi M. (2016): Achieving sustainability through Schumpeterian social entrepreneurship: The role of social enterprises. Journal of Cleaner Production, 137: 347–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.159
 
Rockström J., Williams J., Daily G., Noble A., Matthews N., Gordon L., Wetterstrand H., DeClerck F., Shah M., Steduto P., de Fraiture C., Hatibu N., Unver O., Bird J., Sibanda L., Smith J. (2017): Sustainable intensification of agriculture for human prosperity and global sustainability. Ambio, 46: 4–17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0793-6
 
Skene K., Murray A. (2017): Sustainable Economics – Context, Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st-century Practitioner. London, Routledge: 1–480.
 
Slavova I., Ivanova V. (2019): Corporate environmental re-
 
sponsibility within the circular economy context: Opportunities for development and sustainability. Economic Alternatives, 2: 184–204.
 
Tirivayi N., Knowles M., Davis B. (2016): The interaction between social protection and agriculture: A review of evidence. Global Food Security, 10: 52–62.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.08.004
 
Toop T.A., Ward S., Oldfield T., Hull M., Kirby M.E., Theodorou M.K. (2017): AgroCycle – Developing a circular economy in agriculture. Energy Procedia, 123: 76–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2017.07.269
 
Tsiafouli M.A., Thébault E., Sgardelis S.P., de Ruiter P.C., van der Putten W.H., Birkhofer K., Hemerik L., de Vries F.T., Bardgett R.D., Brady M.V., Bjornlund L., Jørgensen H.B., Christensen S., D'Hertefeldt T., Hotes S., Gera Hol W.H., Frouz J., Liiri M., Mortimer S.R., Setälä H., Tzanopoulos J., Uteseny K., Pižl V., Stary J., Wolters V., Hedlund K. (2015): Intensive agriculture reduces soil biodiversity across Europe. Global Change Biology, 21: 973–985. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12752
 
Zott C., Amit R. (2010): Business model design: An activity system perspective. Long Range Planning, 43: 216–226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lrp.2009.07.004
 
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